Rwanda: Street Children, A Waiting Disaster

Rwanda: Street Children, A Waiting Disaster
The New Times (Kigali)

January 8, 2007

Richard Oundo

I hope we are not waiting to revive Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal to the Irish government in the wake of increased street children on Irish streets, to allow us the plight in our midst.

Swift proposed then that since there were many street children whom the city and perhaps government authorities had failed to contain or rid off the streets, the said children be slaughtered and made a good dish on many dining tables of the affluent. Of course Swift was being sarcastic, ridiculing the authorities for their ineptitude to find a solution to the problem of street children.
Western Union

Today here, as you move on the streets of Kigali City and the suburb roads, there is an increasing spectacle of children, actually destitute children. These delinquents freely roam the streets appealing to any sympathiser to come to their help. They are begging to make a living. Many of these have been victims of the political terrain of the country over time.

They are a consequence probably of the bizarre situation that engulfed this fair nation. They have become destitute in the real sense of the word, without a shelter on their heads and with empty plates.

Only recently, the press reported in one of the provinces where a women forum was attempting to persuade the reluctant children to abandon the habit and go home. Here, the question which lingers is which home are children going back to?

Now, to the concerned authorities and the powers that be, this scenario is a disaster waiting to explode. These street children are dangerously coming to understand that life is characterised by living on the streets, eating from garbage heaps and loitering around. They will take this to be the norm. This is part of the citizens this country will have soon and they will need to take part in pertinent issues of this country. Question again is; how will they be involved when they are not baked at all?

These children are not getting an education, a prerequisite for their fair participation in national issues. They are left to vagaries and hazards of life; they too need a home and education lest they become a precursor to insecurity. Kigali City Council should not wait for the number of street children to increase before it notices that there is a problem in its backyard.

When a section of a population fails to achieve or acquire what it needs, it finds a way of manifesting the problem. In a city like Nairobi, it is paying for letting loose the street children. They have now grown into street adults hardened by the conditions they went through. They steal and rob with impunity. The police and country are grappling with the problem to date. A pedestrian’s security on any Kenyan street is not guaranteed. Thank God Kigali streets are still safe but no one is certain how long they will remain safe. Chinua Achebe in his novel Things Fall Apart says, "When you see a toad moving out in broad day light you know that there is something after its life." The presence of these children on the street could be investigated so that we do not treat the symptoms but look back at the cause of this influx lately and tackle the problem from that angle.

Kigali is peaceful today because the street children are still children. Today they are begging, practically requesting their donors to willingly handover the loose change in their possession. When the sense of frustration develops, they may use ‘reasonable force’ so to say in police speak. We all know the consequences of this action, when someone coerces you into parting with what is legally yours.

Then rogue elements in society always wait for wrong excuses. The UN has always discouraged the use of child soldiers but the ears of dissenters never listen to this. Such a rogue charlatan will not hesitate to seize that opportunity to recruit in his ranks these street children and use them to cause havoc and even mayhem.

The children have lost feelings, have missed parental love and are accustomed to the worst life case scenarios. They do not need tutorials about hard life, they lived it after all. So they will be a target by the opportunists.

City council authorities should include in its budget this destitute even if it means appealing to donors to intervene and give life and hope to this deplorable group to avert a future crisis. Most of the children on the street are barely 10 years of age who should not be eking a living for themselves. It is deplorable to look at a child running after a person saying kufungurira, meaning, give me something to eat.


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